Harper’s next big chance

With Ignatieff cowed, the PM’s brain trust plans the next attack


 

Harper’s next big chanceIn the last week of May, Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with his top political advisers and the Conservative party campaign team. He “put all the troops on high election alert,” an adviser said last week, “and told them to get ready for the campaign.”

Nothing particular in the outside world had triggered this decision, no action by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff or the other opposition leaders, no big news story. And it was hardly the first time Harper had ordered his party put on campaign footing without being sure a campaign was actually coming. The Conservative leader would always rather be safe than sorry. What had spurred this latest escalation in the threat level, the Harper adviser says, was the Conservatives’ own calculation of the Liberals’ best interests.

Every now and then, Harper’s advisers—a loose-knit group that includes campaign chairman Doug Finley, chief of staff Guy Giorno, communications director Kory Ten­eycke and a few others—try to figure out what they would advise the Liberal leader if that were their job. This time they came up with four strong arguments that, they thought, should persuade Michael Ignatieff to force an election before Parliament’s summer break if he could.

“First, he’s only going to get a second chance”—that is, he would only be permitted by Liberals to stay on and lead them into a second election after losing the first—“if he takes the first chance pretty early. And we think he expects to need a second chance,” the adviser said.

“Second, the ads were starting to bite.” These were the “Just Visiting” ads the Conservatives were running on television and the Internet, which argue that Ignatieff has no interest in Canada unless he can run it. Here the Harper adviser’s argument sounds self-serving, because most polling organizations can find no evidence the ads have been a drag on voter support for the Liberals. “But the target isn’t the horse-race numbers,” the adviser countered. “The target is Ignatieff’s personal numbers. And they’re starting to erode.”

Third, “there was starting to be evidence that the economy hit bottom in March. And they would rather go against us in a bad economy than a good one.

“Fourth, he’s 61 f—ing years old. He doesn’t have a lot of time.”

So when Ignatieff went into the National Press Theatre on Monday, June 15, the Conservatives thought he was going to announce he had lost confidence in their government and would vote accordingly at the next opportunity. Instead they heard . . . well, they weren’t sure what to make of it.

“The Liberal party is not seeking an election,” Ignatieff said. “We want Parliament to work. We want to replace confrontation with co-operation. But we need the Prime Minister to provide the accountability that Canadians expect.”

Instead of an electoral confrontation, Harper found himself in a day of secretive negotiations with Ignatieff. Instead of a fight, the two men found themselves announcing a deal. They were striking a blue-ribbon panel to consider changes to the Employment Insurance system. It will report at the end of September. The Harper government will survive at least that long. The mood among Conservatives this week was just short of jubilant: after worrying for months that their hapless Liberal opponents might finally have them on the ropes, they have caught a break. Ignatieff made the first bold move of his charmed tenure as Liberal leader—and flinched.

Obviously this is the analysis of Conservatives, who are predisposed to see their man Harper as the winner in any confrontation. But it matches the early findings of pollsters and the private concerns of Liberals.

A weekly large-sample Ekos poll of voter preference showed that the Liberals’ lead over the Conservatives shrank from 4.7 points before the EI deal to 1.3 points afterward. On the single day that Harper and Ignatieff were meeting behind closed doors, Ekos tracking showed the Liberals taking a fleeting but terrifying nine-point dip.

Ignatieff has the summer to pick up his game. The consensus in Ottawa is that he’ll need it. And Harper has the summer to plan for the next confrontation. For a guy who was on the ropes just two weeks ago that’s a good place to be. Here’s how it all happened.

“He’s had a roller-coaster year,” the Harper adviser said. “But it’s been that way with Stephen since the beginning.”

Ever since Harper returned to electoral politics in 2002, he has moved from crunch to crunch. He won the Canadian Alliance leadership and brokered the merger between his party and the Progressive Conservatives. In 2004 he won that party’s leadership and went straight into electoral battle against Paul Martin’s Liberals, finally winning in January 2006. From there he had two luxurious years of something close to stability while he set about defining his new Conservatism in power.

In the 2008 election he cut Stéphane Dion’s Liberals to their lowest share of the popular vote since Confederation, and their lowest seat total in 24 years. Then, leading a larger caucus against a headless opposition, Harper had Finance Minister Jim Flaherty deliver a November economic update that proposed to eliminate public funding of political parties. The Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Québécois depend on taxpayer subsidies for a bigger fraction of their war chests than do the Conservatives, whose Reform branch has spent 20 years raising money from large numbers of individual donors. It would have been a devastating move.

But Harper riled the opposition instead of asphyxiating them, and though he survived the three parties’ attempts to build a parliamentary coalition to replace him, Conservatives were left badly rattled by it all.
When the dust settled in January, Ignatieff had replaced Dion in a bloodless coup. The Liberals saved the money and energy they would have spent fighting among themselves. And the Conservatives kept stepping in cow pies. Harper had his communications staff put out word that Brian Mulroney, who faced a public inquiry into his dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber, was estranged from the party. This merely succeeded in infuriating former Progressive Conservatives who were still loyal to Mulroney. Then Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt’s assistant mislaid a briefing book and a digital recorder. Reporters divulged the embarrassing contents of both items.

All the while, Ignatieff had Harper on this pesky leash. As his price for supporting the Conservative budget in January, Ignatieff put the Conservatives “on probation.” He demanded they deliver updates on the implementation of the budget in March, June and September. Each time the government would face a confidence test in the Commons. Each time, if it lost there would be an election. Missteps and mini-scandals had the Conservatives reeling. A fresh new Liberal leader held the whip hand. Even the Just Visiting ads weren’t keeping the Liberals from creeping into a lead over the Conservatives.

Harper made the best show he could of what, to him, seemed the inevitable crisis. He released his second “probation” report in an elaborate show in Cambridge, in southern Ontario. The report claimed 80 per cent of stimulus measures were being spent or on the way to being spent—a comically broad measure of success. Now, the Conservatives were sure, Ignatieff would force an election, while seeking to put the blame for it on Harper.

Instead the Liberal leader stalled, clumsily. In an endless, disjointed Montreal scrum, Ignatieff gave non-answers to question after question before telling reporters he would read Harper’s report overnight and get back to them.

That was a Thursday. On Friday, the Liberals put out a news release saying he’d take the weekend before saying anything. On Monday, he had that weird news conference, a mix of bluster and pleading. He didn’t want an election. But if Harper wanted to avoid one, he needed to give Ignatieff more information on four key questions. Ignatieff wanted a more generous EI system; he wanted to know how much of the stimulus money was spent, not promised; he wanted to know how Harper planned to get out of the huge deficits he had dug at the opposition’s demand; and he wanted to know how the government would replace medical isotopes the abandoned Chalk River reactor will no longer produce. Four questions. So he was demanding answers? “I don’t need to have all the answers this week.” Huh?

With that, he headed into question period. Harper almost never attends the daily circus on Monday, but today he did. Much of his staff was in the gallery above, watching. Ignatieff amazed them by neglecting to ask whether Harper would meet his demands. “I don’t know what he wants,” Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said to reporters afterward.

Harper held an impromptu news conference to answer the questions he hadn’t had from Ignatieff. He said he had either already answered Ignatieff’s demands or that he couldn’t. Ignatieff gave a string of TV interviews, each markedly less bellicose than the last. It was like watching the air go out of a balloon.

The Conservative and Liberal press offices sent word out: the two leaders would spend Tuesday meeting. On Wednesday they announced a deal. It was a pretty minimal deal. On isotopes: nothing. On climbing out of deficit: nothing. On the precise amount of stimulus spending: nothing. On EI: a two-party committee would report in September. Ignatieff was batting maybe one-half for four. He’d take it. The Liberals would continue to support the government. “Do I look steamrolled?” he asked reporters wanly, looking steamrolled.

Only Harper, Ignatieff and their top advisers, Conservative Guy Giorno and Liberal Ian Davey, were in the room when they met. None of the principals is talking. “I just think Harper got a sense that Ignatieff really didn’t want a campaign,” said a Conservative who talked to Maclean’s and had been briefed on the meetings. “So [he said] ‘Here’s our response; find a way to sell it.’ ”

So a show of strength had become a moment of vagueness for Ignatieff. He has the summer to reorganize, rest and, perhaps most important, think a bit so he can do better in the autumn. But so does Harper. And Harper doesn’t normally waste his summers. He won in 2006 because he changed his team and strategy over the summer of 2005. He used the summer of 2008 to change chiefs of staff. His critics have called his new right-hand man, Guy Giorno, a source of the past half-year’s missteps. Harper’s admirers have an entirely different read.

Two MPs said Giorno, who once held the same job for former Ontario premier Mike Harris, is seen by the Conservative caucus to be more attentive to their concerns than Ian Brodie, the former political science prof Giorno replaced. “Phone calls get returned promptly,” one said. “Problems that keep local members awake at night get resolved.” Brodie was seen to be enforcing discipline on the Conservative caucus and political staff while giving the civil service a free rein. With Giorno, that’s turned around. Partisans have more latitude. It’s the bureaucracy whose wings have been clipped.

But what about the missteps? The fall update and the fight with Mulroney? Not Giorno’s fault, insiders say. “The crimes of Giorno are actually the crimes of Harper,” a cabinet minister said. “Every one of them. Every one.”

The change at Harper’s right hand probably contributed to another major change, the departure of Kevin Lynch as clerk of the Privy Council. Lynch had a direct pipeline to Harper. His memos could go straight to the Prime Minister’s desk, in many cases without Brodie seeing them and appending a political memo first. Giorno ended that practice—simply restoring balance between politics and the bureaucracy, Harper’s side says, but “for Kevin it was a radical change.”

Lynch has retired, to be replaced by former Treasury Board deputy minister Wayne Wouters. Wouters is highly regarded but seen as temperamentally less likely than the firebrand Lynch to challenge the fundamentally political cast of a Giorno-led PMO. “Kevin had to win every day,” said a career civil servant who knows both men well. “Wayne won once, on the day he was appointed clerk.”

Harper will have another chance to consolidate his control over the apparatus of government with three major pending appointments. Wouters must be replaced as the top bureaucrat at the Treasury Board, in charge of spending all that stimulus money. Rob Wright has announced he is retiring as deputy minister of finance. And Len Edwards is telling friends he will soon depart as deputy minister of foreign affairs. Ottawa Kremlinologists will be watching Harper’s choice of replacements for clues about the government’s new direction.

But surely there’ll be an election in September? Conservatives aren’t convinced. If Ignatieff couldn’t come up with a reason to pull the plug in June it’s not clear why that would change. Another confidence vote in September, one said, “is another chance for Iggy to look weak.”

The Conservatives think the controversies that obsess Ottawa are ignored in their ridings—and vice versa. Budget measures like tax-free savings accounts and a home-renovation tax credit are what gets noticed and appreciated at home, they say.

“He’s reaching out and connecting to the people he should be reaching out and connecting with,” the Harper adviser said. “We’re not trying to reach 100 per cent of the people. We’re not even trying to reach 60 per cent.”

Whenever the election does come, Harper has one plan in mind for afterward: the elimination of public funding to political parties. A punishing blow to his opponents. Sure, the idea caused a showdown last autumn, the adviser said. “But in retrospect, we should have stuck to our guns. It was strategically smart. It’s still strategically smart. We’re going to run again on it. And we’re going to do it, if we win the next election. It’s coming.”


 

Harper’s next big chance

  1. “But in retrospect, we should have stuck to our guns. It was strategically smart. It's still strategically smart. We're going to run again on it. And we're going to do it, if we win the next election. It's coming.”

    Is it me or does this sound like putting strategy ahead of democracy? I know that those opposed to the public funding say that the parties should handle their own fundraising exclusively, without any government involvement, but I would much prefer that Canada continue to have the 4.5 parties that we do.

    Forgetting my partisanship for a moment, I still shudder at the thought of the lasting effect a Harper majority would have on the way Canadians are governed. I shudder because I think that lasting effect would be significantly viewed as negative in the eyes of future generations.

    • Forgetting your partisanship?!? Really? I'd hate to hear the Lib-Left rant you'd have come up with if you actually thought you were being partisan!

      • Hardly a constructive addition to the dialogue. The concern of tdotlib for the direction of the current government and the potential within it for permanent damage to our Parliament ….. and to the longer term prospects of the Conservative party itself … reflects a broad concern in Canada that crosses partisan political lines.

      • Dakota, typical conservative bully tactic you always have to bring it to the school yard rant level by labelling your opposition. You can't just discuss an issue you have to resort to name calling, therefore I must deduce that your educational level must only be high school.

      • Address the argument and we can talk. Continue with the ad-hominem attacks and I'll continue to ignore you. Better yet, register for an account and we can start to track all the bile you spew or watch you become an actual debater.

        • No, Dakota had a point. You claim to be non-partisan, then you let loose with a ridculous partisan rant. Then you whine about the reaction to it, and exhibit your arrogance by threatening to "continue to ignore you". How scary. Feel free to ignore me too, I can handle it.

    • Thank you. I just reread the article looking (with little success) for some consideration of Canada and Canadians within what was a unique insight into PMO tactical planning …. It showed an obsession with the 'short' game, no qualms about a distressingly partisan anything-goes-if-it-works approach, and little or no appreciation for long term consequences for the Country or the Conservative party. It is interesting how desperately afraid the PMO was of Ignatieff. It is interesting how afraid they are of so many things.

    • What is democratic about forcing working people to give money to political parties. If no one supports their ideas and people enough to donate or volunteer maybe that says something about the parties and their ideas.

      • You're misunderstanding my post. What IS democratic of publicly funded parties is that it allows fringe parties to have a voice.

        Before the Greens could mount a significant push for any seats their funding was through fundraising. Now that they have started to receive a certain percentage of the popular vote, they get a little bit of money from the pool, allowing them to continue to have a voice.

        Without public funding we'd most likely be left with the Cons and the Liberal/NDP amalgamation (not a coalition, IMHO the Left would have to unite in order to not split donations).

        • I think LOL understood you exactly correctly, actually. All parties have a "voice", funded by the taxpayer or not. Anyway tdotlib, assuming you are a T-Dot Liberal, why are you such a fan of the Greens being subsidized to exist in perpetuity when they bleed your party's vote and help elect Tories? Why are you such a fan of the Bloc getting disproportionate cash to spend in one province's Bloc-held ridings, probably two dozen of which are very winnable by an Ignatieff led liberal party?

          • To answer your question, because it goes beyond petty partisan politics to a matter of principle. I know the conservatives don't talk much in terms aside from short-term partisan interest, but it's entirely possible that a Liberal supporter might not want to stack the system in favour of their party, and put more weight on ensuring a greater proportion of Canadians are engaged in the political process.

          • There is no principle that dictates five parites are better than two or three.

        • Fringe parties have a voice. The only people that don't have a voice are mutes.

      • Money shouldn't be deciding elections, people and ideas should. A person's vote is evidence of their support for a party and their idea.

        Parties aren't corporations, their objective shouldn't be to make money. They objective should be to represent the people of this country fairly and effectively. The political subsidies cost very little in the grand scheme of things and are directly linked to the support a party gets in an election. I don't want any parties making policy based on who fills their bank account the most – by linking funding to votes, we force parties to care about each and every voter, not just to those with open wallets. One person, one vote – that's democracy.

  2. So "the ads were starting to bite" were they? The cons are fooling only themselves if they think their negative advertising against Ignatieff is lowering his numbers. Quite the contrary imho. Their ads serve to remind us just how mean-spirited and bitter they actually are. Someone needs to advise them that kind of campaigning disappeared with George W but … let them dig their own hole, I say.

    Looking at this article's reason 4, I have to wonder which imbecile they're quoting. Ignatieff is "61 f…ing years old and doesn't have a lot of time". Actually, 61 years of age is relatively young for politicians and secondly, do cons really find this sort of language impressive? They sound like a bunch of school yard juveniles attempting to impress. Try to stretch yourselves a little, will you? If you can, you may just grow into the shoes you're trying to fill.

    • Well if the ads aren't working why are you getting all worked up about them? If they really didn't work Liberals would happily let the CPC waste their money.

      • While not wanting to speak for lamorial, i can think of other implications that I find disconcerting for reasons other than their assumed utility – to destroy the credibility of Ignatieff.

        I think the real point behind the ads – and other elements of CPC tactical planning – is to turn people off of politics and especially electoral politics. as the unnamed con in the piece allows the strategy here is not to unite; the strategy is too divide. the only way one wins the election "not even trying to reach 60 per cent” is to divide and alienate people so they do not participate.

        I find that sufficient to be 'all worked up about', regardless of political stripe.

        • I'm sorry, but you are being silly. The real point behind the ads, like any political ploy( say a scary meme) is they work, or at the very least someone thinks so. And every political party targets certain segments.

          When you try to be all things to all people you end up like the Liberals , principleless, policyless, and pointless.

          • right. I am silly. you should read more. start with Thomas Frank's The Wrecking Crew. It is simple math 'bud' you don't win in a system that encourages full (or nearly full) participation, without targetting more than 60% of the vote.

            while no fan of the current Lib regime, if you want to make it about parties, pls do tell what the CPC set of principles is: fiscal restraint? don't think so…; democratic reform? they punted that one on the first day in office…talk about being silly…..pls

          • I'm pleasantly surprised at your reading prowess. You might want to continue. Apparently you've never heard of the Canadian political system, where 50% plus one is a distant memory, majorities can be had with 30 plus % of the vote, and they have these funny things called minority governments where politics trumps principles, policies and patriotism. Sad, but adultly true. You can read all about it.

          • right, SH and everyone else is/has always (been) shooting for minorities right?

            Let's make this a bit more simple for you, since, well, clearly you need the help.

            If you target less than 60%, then you discount those you don't attract (e.g., people who live in Quebec if you are SH last election) you still need some help to get to the high-30%s (unless you honestly beleive they are shooting for a minority in which case I am really wasting my time)….well you still need some help….since coalitions are not seemingly the answer in actual elections….. how else can you increase your percentage?????

            this is where it gets tricky….you lower the denominator by convincing people through 1) the performance of your government and 2) treatment of the institution that politics and government is hopeless thereby discouraging them to participate.

          • right, SH and everyone else is/has always (been) shooting for minorities right?

            Let's make this a bit more simple for you, since, well, clearly you need the help.

            If you target less than 60%, then you discount those you don't attract (e.g., people who live in Quebec if you are SH last election) you still need some help to get to the high-30%s (unless you honestly beleive they are shooting for a minority in which case I am really wasting my time)….well you still need some help….since coalitions are not seemingly the answer in actual elections….. how else can you increase your percentage?????

            this is where it gets tricky….you lower the denominator by convincing people through 1) the performance of your government and 2) treatment of the institution that politics and government is hopeless thereby discouraging them to participate.

            And even reqires

  3. I worry the the attitudinal posture shown by Dakota and a lot more – is reflective of the Harper moves in November and the last couple of weeks – and the election of MiniMike as Ontario Tory Leader last night – a reintrenchment of the hard right "we are always right" Neo-conservatism that was such a failure from 1995 to 2003 here in Ontario – and forever it seems – down south of the border – but they persist!

  4. Yawn. Another puff piece by Brother Wells describing the strategic genius of Harper and those around him.

    Can we expect a similar piece on the strategic brilliance of Iggy and his Deputies one of these days?

    • Yes. Once Wells resumes writing fiction.

      • LOL!

      • LOL, yes, but Iggy and his Merry Band of Strategists have managed to install a person with no background in politics and no roots in the party as the head of one of the most successful political parties in the Western world without having to fight a contest. Actually, they managed it after having lost a contest.

        If Wells can put this fictional narrative to prose, I'm sure people would read it :-)

        • It's hard to get a full length novel out of the inversely proportional relationship between numbered company donations and Liberal Party electoral prospects.

          Liberal coronations are as rare as undeserved public servant bonuses. Which is to say…. Now, a switch to one person, one vote might help. Probably help increase population by bringing polyandriums across the country back to life.

          • Seeing as corporate donations are prohibited, there is no relationship to speak of.

            Where did Harper get his leadership funds, by the way?

    • I'd say perhaps after they exhibit some. While I feel Harper is probably a <a href'="http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html">sociopath, that doesn't discount that he's managed some reasonable turns of strategy.. probably the strongest was buying Peter MacKay and the Progressive Conservatives with a promised cabinet seat.

    • I'd say perhaps after they exhibit some. While I feel Harper is probably a [url="http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html"%5Dsociopath%5B/url%5D, that doesn't discount that he's managed some reasonable turns of strategy.. probably the strongest was buying Peter MacKay and the Progressive Conservatives with a promised cabinet seat.

    • I'd say perhaps after they exhibit some. While I feel Harper is probably a sociopath (under the definition here; http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html) that doesn't discount that he's managed some reasonable turns of strategy.. probably the strongest was buying Peter MacKay and the Progressive Conservatives with a promised cabinet seat.

  5. I found these sentences interesting: "And Harper doesn't normally waste his summers. He won in 2006 because he changed his team and strategy over the summer of 2005. He used the summer of 2008 to change chiefs of staff."

    Shouldn't Harper and his advisers be plotting, you know, how to find a way out of the economic downturn? I suspect, unfortunately, that he and the PMO staff will be spending the summer plotting.

    And are the Conservatives really going to try to eliminate public funding for political parties again? Those who advocate exclusively private funding forget that most Canadians do not belong to a political party, but often choose one of two or three options. Will these neutral voters need to give money to one or more parties just to ensure that they have a palatable option? Will we all have to save up to buy our democracy?

  6. I found these sentences interesting: "And Harper doesn't normally waste his summers. He won in 2006 because he changed his team and strategy over the summer of 2005. He used the summer of 2008 to change chiefs of staff."

    Shouldn't Harper and his advisers be thinking of how to find a way out of the economic downturn? I suspect, unfortunately, that he and the PMO staff will be spending the summer plotting.

    And are the Conservatives really going to try to eliminate public funding for political parties again? Those who advocate exclusively private funding forget that most Canadians do not belong to a political party, but often choose one of two or three options. Will these neutral voters need to give money to one or more parties just to ensure that they have a palatable option? Will we all have to save up to buy our democracy?

    • Its about contributing small amounts of money from lots of people.

      It forces parties to actually speak with people and engage them….funny how that happens when you actually need to convince them of something rather than auto deducting it from them through taxes.

      If people want choice they'll fund it. Its not like getting a political party going is impossible, Reform, Bloc, Greens all recent additions to the system, and all their beginnings pre date the Chretien law.

      It is more democratic because the amoutns are small and it forces parties to do what they used to do in the past, go into the community and build support and organization.

      • "It is more democratic because the amoutns are small and it forces parties to do what they used to do in the past, go into the community and build support and organization."

        I think that is a rather significant assumption that I do not see a lot of support for. The CPC, who have done dramatically better at getting small donations from lots of people have broken a series of 2006 elections promises, yet to the degree that party supporters see no alternative Harper is able to – and has – ignore their objections on an ongoing basis. Doesn't seem overly democratic to me.

        • You suffer the consequences of ignoring your donor base. Just as you sufer the consequences of ignoring electors. To the extent you break promises and suffr no consequences tells you how important those promises were or werent in the first place. Make no mistake about it though, parties listen to the financial base, they just have a better sense of what really matters. What is the mechanism for feedback interelection for parties in the government funded system…..none.

          Can't parties simply ignore groups with more impunity if they have one single anonymous donor, the canadian taxpayer?

          Isnt it better that parties focus on outreach, which gets them into a conversation. Wasnt everyone oooing and aaaahing over Obama's ability to garner a broad range of donors with small amounts and declaring that as an indicator of support?

          Forced funding isolates parties from the communities they purport to represent. It serves the existing rather than the new.

          • So you're arguing for plutocracy because it gives parties feedback between writ periods. Wow.

            I might see the case for donations from individuals alone if they were capped at $20/yr.

          • this might be a good idea…given the junk we are getting pre- and post-writ I would love anything that forced parties to actually do more with less….. get rid of all the stupid photo ops and hopping from dumb event to event…..the cheapest part of any campaign these days is the generation of a policy platform if a party bothers at all (less of course those that require a pro photog to create a photo album of the leader in endearing sweater vests).

          • "You suffer the consequences of ignoring your donor base. Just as you sufer the consequences of ignoring electors. To the extent you break promises and suffr no consequences tells you how important those promises were or werent in the first place. Make no mistake about it though, parties listen to the financial base"

            Sorry Stephen but there is a catastrophic flaw in your reasoning. do the degree that your donor base feels they have not better option and continue to give you money because they see you as the lessor evil.

            "Isnt it better that parties focus on outreach, which gets them into a conversation."

            Well it depends, like Thwim well laid out, not necessarily.

        • Unfortunately, I think the CPC would always be more successful in seeking private funding because most of their supporters are neo-cons who believe strongly in private enterprise; and those are people who have money in the first place and want to perpetuate their own interests. In fact, it would be interesting to see the income levels of all those who contributed to the Conservative party.

          The rest of the population believe in social programs or are poor and could not financially support the libs or other non-neo-con parties.

  7. The Liberals are still playing the game with their old playbook which, given the new political paradigm, is obsolete. Here's why the Liberas are up tough:

    1. The Conservative Party has become a well-funded and organized political machine led by a first rate political strategist in Stephen Harper;

    2. The Conservative policies are resonating with the times while the Liberals strayed too far to the left under Dion, a trend that started in the waning days of the Martin regime;

    3. Ironically, Michael Ignatieff is too far to the right of the Liberal Party in terms of attracting soft NDP support which the Liberals cynically appeal to during the pre-writ period and writ period and then later invariably ignore.

    4. Many Liberals are getting the sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs that Michael Ignatieff, while an improvement from the dismal Dion, is not the man of the hour. I say "many Liberals" because a goodly number knew that already.

    (Cross-posted from Inkless Wells)

    • Well, isn't it JUST like a Conservative to be so mean! And the ad hominen. The $##@&% neo-cons are so offensive. School yard juveniles. Conservative bully tactics. Just once I wish they would rise to our level of debate. $#@!*&*! wankers !
      Lucky we're so full of ourselves. And so obtuse, we entirely miss the screaming irony.

      Prescient precis.

      • That's a bit of an incoherent rant bud, why don't you lighten up. It's summer, go outside somewhere and have a beer. Life, and Canadian summers, are too short.

        • On second read, maybe not so incoherent.

    • "2. The Conservative policies are resonating with the times"

      "My own belief is if we were going to have some kind of crash or recession, we probably would have had it by now."

      Sure do Jarrid.

    • Point 1 : That the Conservative Party is well funded and well organized cannot be denied. The Liberals have a lot of catching up to do. That Stephen Harper is a "first rate political strategist" is up for discussion at the very least. The Fall Economic Statement where he almost got himself booted out just after an election and then went and begged the GG for his political life has to rate as one of the biggest strategic blunders in Canadian politics of all time.

      Point 2 : Conservative policies are not resonating with the times, just the opposite. The Fall Economic Statement was deflationary – the equivalent of bailing water back in to a leaking boat. There is no recent poll which shows that Canadians think Canada is going in the right direction under the stewardship of the federal Conservatives.

      Point 3 : You misread flexible NDP support. They are coming back to the Liberal Party now that the Liberals have a leader which has a reasonable prospect of winning i.e. a leader which can give Harper the boot. Also, Red Tories who hate Harper and who either stayed home or voted NDP last time (as incredible as this may seem) are coming back to the Liberals.

      Point 4 : Iggy has just taken on the job. He is learning all the time and getting better. Dion's biggest problem (aside from the fact that nobody could understand what the hell he was saying in English) was his stubbornness – he was fundamentally unable to learn. Iggy's stock will continue to rise as Harper's continues to sink.

      • Point 3 – any hard evidence of this or wishful thinking?

        Point 4 – I agree that Iggy should get better and that unlike Dion, listens to good advice. Where we part company is where you say Harper's stock is sinking and Iggy's is rising. The polls that came out last week have dispelled that. I see no evidence of the Conservatives self-destructing. It's trench warfare out there, and the Liberals have to dislodge the Conservatives from their perch, I'm not saying it's not possible, I'm saying it looks like that'll be difficult.

        • Point 3 – I am not privy to any polling data, I can only go by what I hear from people I know, which of course is in no way scientific. Also, Nanos says NDP support is shifting to the Liberals. What do you reckon about the Red Tories ? Are they going to sit on their hands in the next election ?

          Point 4 – You're right, the Liberals will have to do much better to solidify their support than they are right now. I don't think Iggy did himself any favours in this latest game of parliamentary chicken, but he'll recover from that. But Nanos seems to think that the negatives are greater than the positives for the Conservatives. To quote Nik :

          "The research indicates that Canadians are more likely to associate weaknesses with the Conservative government as opposed to strengths (65% can articulate a weakness and 36% can articulate a strength). Of concern for the Tories is that one of every five Canadians believes the Conservatives have no strength whatsoever. Comparing that to the 3% who say the Tories have no weakness suggests that the anti-Harper sentiments are much firmer than the pro-Harper sentiments. Likewise, the weaknesses associated with the Conservatives at the time of the survey are linked to many of the former strengths – Stephen Harper himself, transparency in government and economic management.

          Overall Prime Minister Stephen Harper is twice as likely to be identified as a weakness than as a strength which suggests that he is personally becoming a lightning rod for discontent with the government. This is not surprising since the Conservative political strategy has largely centered on Harper."

          • # 4 – Points for citing a source. I won the Maclean's Blog Central poll last election and in doing my seat predictions, completely disregarded Nik's numbers. Nik should run for public office, he's that good at spinning.

          • Ah yes, that huge Red Tory voting bloc. That is the same group responsible for Joe Clark's triumph in 2000, n'est ce pas? Newsflash – to the extent they ever really existed, those voters have long since made their peace with the existing choices. Most went Conservative, and a small handful went to the Liberals. That happened three elections ago, in 2004. If Liberals want to cling to a fantasy suggesting that an army of David Crombie and Flora Macdonald fans didn't vote in the last three elections but are just waiting for a reason to emerge from the closet to vote for them, go right ahead, but I predict you might be disappointed.

      • ''1… The Fall Economic Statement where he almost got himself booted out just after an election ''

        The coalition of losers was well underway BEFORE the Econo Stmnt,
        as evidenced by the 'Layton tape', Dippers and Bloc had been in negotiations for a 'long time'.

        If you remember, the last week of the election campaign, a LibDipper coalition came up, and Dion said 'no way'.
        (one of the key reasons the GG gave PMSH his prorogation)
        Cons already knew what was coming and thusly the 3 poison pills in the update: party financing, right to strike, equity pay.
        Layton gambled on a cabinet seat as a 'sure thing', rather than killing the Bloc and Libs with one bullet, no more party financing.

        • "If you remember, the last week of the election campaign, a LibDipper coalition came up, and Dion said 'no way'."

          I see, so because Dion said 'no way' to a coalition during the election, that means that he was in favour of it at that time. By the way, that's a very fetching tin foil hat you're wearing …

        • What Wilson says is obvious to Conservative partisans. Harper already told Maclean's a while ago that he would campaign against the coalition–essentially that Canadians will end up with either a Conservative majority or a Coalition majority. So I fully expect him to package all the anti-Coalition material into one strong narrative–that the coalition is ready willing and able to recreate itself, no matter how much Iggy et al deny it.

          And let's not forget that Harper has only released about 25 % of the tape he has on Layton and the NDP caucus meeting. I'll bet that Harper has saved up some juicy Jack quotes in the remaining 75 %, for use during the campaign. Which brings me to the silver lining around the whole Raitt-gate affair: Good luck to the media, LIbs and Dippers spinnig the release of the rest of the Layton tape as: "How dare Harper release the contents of a PRIVATE conversation, that was secretly taped". Raitt-gate already established that it's perfectly OK to do that. So the debate will be around the CONTENTS of what Jack said.

          • Ah. So you think the Liberals should try to control the press. Interesting take from a Harper party supporter.
            Remember, it's not the opposition that has the Raitt tapes, nor the opposition that went in and secretly recorded them.

            I said it before and I'll say it again: The recordings of the NDP conference were done maliciously with intent. The recordings of Raitt were done without intent and with incompetence. The sad part is that it has been the Harper party responsible for both.

            However, this historical revisionism from Wilson is indeed interesting. "Oh yeah.. Harper *planned* to have to go to the GG, prorogue parliament and threaten democracy, while making sure the Liberals put a new leader in power without having to spend a dime on internal campaigning and fighting."

      • ''1… The Fall Economic Statement where he almost got himself booted out just after an election ''

        The coalition of losers was well underway BEFORE the Econo Stmnt,
        as evidenced by the 'Layton tape', Dippers and Bloc had been in negotiations for a 'long time'.

        If you remember, the last week of the election campaign, a LibDipper coalition came up, and Dion said 'no way'.
        (one of the key reasons the GG gave PMSH his prorogation)
        Cons already knew what was coming and thusly the 3 poison pills in the update: party financing, right to strike, equity pay.
        Layton gambled on a cabinet seat as a 'sure thing', rather than killing the Bloc and Libs with one bullet, no more party financing.

    • "2. The Conservative policies are resonating with the times while the Liberals strayed too far to the left under Dion, a trend that started in the waning days of the Martin regime;"

      Seriously, what policies? Other than short term vote buying ploys that can hardly be considered conservative (baby bonuses) and policies forced on them by the opposition (economic stimulus) what policies have they actually implemented? I'm really trying to think of some. The tax on income trusts, I guess. I had thought the national securities regulator, but that seems to be moving at a glacial pace if at all.

  8. Why do I say that Michael Ignatieff is not the man of the hour?

    Michael Ignatieff would have been a good leader for a Liberal Party at the top of its game, a confident party that already had well thought out policy directions for which Ignatieff would have then become the articulate spokesman. But they don't have that and so Iggy not only has to be the articulate spokesman but as leader, he'll be the one deciding on the policy directions of the Party. I don't know if Iggy has the political smarts to do this, or at the very least it doesn't appear to be his forte. I had put my money on Rae in my office pool in 2006 for that reason.

  9. Agreed, iggy like Turner works better when surrounded by all of the trappings of power….for that matter anyone looks better there.

    For all the criticism people have of Harper, you have to give him credit for the things that he has accomplished, Paul outlines them. They are major political accomplishments……what Harper always wanted and what is missing at this stage is major policy accomplishments…..

    • Harper can't get his major policy accomplishments through without a majority and he is never going to get that now. So why does he stay in politics ?

      • NOT getting his major policy thru parliament (without the policy being badly watered down) is why PMSH gets stronger minorities each election.
        Crime and the economy are Conservative priority policy, and they are top of the mind with many Canadians,
        more so than bringing Kahdr home, public daycare or govt funded injection sites.

        The unelected leader of the Liberals backed down over his EI threats because PMSH would have won, period.
        And maybe a majority.

        • If that were the case, Harper could easily have provoked the situation to force an election. But he didn't. So, despite your partisan bluster, Harper didn't want an election either – his judgement was that he would lose, not win.

          • Why go into an election, not much would change. Harper has always said he would rather govern than not. Look Iggy was not at his best, he is new. Accept it and move on, I dont think Canadians will hold it against him in the long run. The issue will be if he continually makes these kind of mistakes and cannot hold his party together behnd him. I dont think he gets two shots….I think he gets one, and only gets a second if he mortally wounds Harper. But if the election is 18 months from now and nothing changes, Iggy is gone.

            As for policy, lack of majority is the definitely the major issue. Minority fatigue, I think Wells used that phrase, is a real possibility though. Canadians MAY decide to grant a majority., it may even be a con majority. The new seats make that a possibility, not sure when they come into play.

            The Libs are more likely to get things done policy wise assuming they have a working majority with the NDP. How well that agenda will be viewed is another matter. Anyway, both sides retire to their corners to rethink.

          • "Why go into an election, not much would change."

            Because, following Wilson's logic, Harper's minority gets stronger every time.

            "But if the election is 18 months from now and nothing changes, Iggy is gone."

            I wouldn't bet the farm on that one. The same could easily be said concerning Harper if he doesn't deliver on anything like a Conservative agenda.

          • I.e. he really needs to win the next election, not just come through unscathed. Honestly, given the perpetual minority situation we're in, I don't see how any leader of any party (except, of course, the NDP) can last more than three or four election cycles (= three or four years), since nobody can deliver the real power to implement policy.

  10. The Liberals are stuck with Ignatieff as their leader and there is no face saving way to change that fact. Being an American university professor may resonate with academics and those impressed with his literary accomplishments but most of us see him as indecisive and not someone trusted to be Prime Minister of Canada.

    • He's been a bit of a disappointment so far, that's for sure.

    • Pretty darn frustrating. The Libs need some real strategic advisors, and Iggy needs an executive/image coach.

      As much as I disagree with almost everything SH stands for and does (because they are not mutually inclusive); he's a nasty master manipulator.

  11. Whenever the election does come, Harper has one plan in mind for afterward: the elimination of public funding to political parties. A punishing blow to his opponents.

    This quote says it all! Harper does not have one great plan for Canada or Canadians. He isn't focussed on dealing with the complex problems he will face as he tries to reduce the debt. Nope, our great leader has a plan to screw the other political parties, and damn it, he will do what it takes to win a majority govt. so that he can fulfill his dream.
    A year ago, even I would have said that Mr. Harper is not that myopic but after last fall…
    Boy, I hope this article and the above quote get some real attention.

    • Oh happy days, the celebrated one quote from the highly anonymous adviser encapsulating the entire governing strategy, pithly and purposely. I suppose one could hang their reputation for thought on twice removed , unproved assertions. As for the rest of it, I can only congratulate you on your astonishing mind reading capabilities.

      Making politicians accountable, lowering costs and defunding Separatists. What's not to like?

      • Anyone who uses "separatists" instead of "sovereignists" in a political debate has their partisanship tattooed on their forehead. You can't judge the motives on the Block today on the actions of the long dead FLQ 30 years ago, and call on someone's pithy assumptions in the same breath. Assuming separatists would want to go anywhere near a federal scene shows how little you know of thy judgeth.

    • "Whenever the election does come, Harper has one plan in mind for afterward: the elimination of public funding to political parties. A punishing blow to his opponents."

      This wouldn't be the end of the world for any of the opposition parties. It might even finally motivate the Liberal Party to get off their asses and start fundraising properly from smaller donors.

      By the way, has Harper ever published the list of donors to his leadership campaign ? I only ask because of the foreign donations his former friend and advisor Brian Mulroney used to finance his internal party coup d'état against Joe Clark.

    • 'Harper has one plan in mind'
      What a totally laughable statement. The Harper Government has already got a plan re: the economic recovery phase planned. PMSH likely had that figured out, in detail, with multiple alternatives,
      before the January 2009 stimulus budget.

      It's the Liberals that have one plan.
      No Conservative government has ever survived re-election thru a recession (Lib govts have) ,
      all bets were on "Harper wears this recession".
      Oh oh, now it looks like 'Harper wears the recovery'.

    • 'Harper has one plan in mind'
      What a totally laughable statement. The Harper Government has already got a plan re: the economic recovery phase planned. PMSH likely had that figured out, in detail, with multiple alternatives,
      before the January 2009 stimulus budget.

      It's the Liberals that have one plan.
      No Conservative government has ever survived re-election thru a recession (Lib govts have) ,
      all bets were on "Harper wears this recession".
      Oh oh, now it looks like 'Harper wears the recovery'.

  12. andI think the Greens are pretty open about their dependency on public funding to have evolved where they are today and to continue to evolve.

    And the development of Reform and the Bloc as regional parties is easily distinguishable between initiating a national party.

    • The greens are now dependent on that support…that was a choice…..they werent always that way, and as I said started and grew without that funding.

      You can call them regional , and now you are reflecting a bias. The support for funding is it will make it easier for new parties to form to reflect the rich diversity of opinion. Your idea indicates that there is a litmus test now.

      Individually donations is the best way to fund a party, it forces parties to continually renew themselves, to make the sale again and again, not just every 4 years. Far better, forces political engagement down into society.

      That the Liberals have been bad at it is more a problem of committment and organization, very solveable problems. If you can't connect then honestly what kind of a party and organization are you? The NDP can do it, shoot any one of a number of charities can do it.

      The conservatives do not have a permanent advantage at this. Everythign they have done is repeatable by others. It is more fair, more democratic and the evidence points to more parties rather than less, despite them not being to your liking.

      • Evidence points toward it leading to extremist parties. Why is it every campaign mailer I see isn't about what that party will do, it's about what the other party will do and how money is needed to stop them.

        That's not promoting good governance. That's promoting reactive governance. It promotes fear and divisiveness among the population, it weakens the interest of the general public in scrutinizing our own system of governance, and it is in general, a feeding ground for polarization within our politics.

        In short, it promotes politics over governance.

        Why did Obama get so much money? Because Bush was so successful at polarizing the country. People were willing to pay to get rid of him. Harper's leading us down that path again.

        If what we really want for our government is marketers, let's just hire them directly, and let those who've paid the most determine how we're going to be governed.

        Removing public subsidies for public parties is a step in this direction.

        • "Evidence points toward it leading to extremist parties"
          What evidence are you talking about, and what do you mean by extremist parties?

          I believe your argument goes along the following lines:
          Lowering the tax deduction on political contributions weakens public interest in politics.
          This promotes polarization.
          Polarization strengthens peoples interest in politics, e.g. Obama v. Bush.

          Then, a concluding argument along the lines that:
          There is too much power in the hands of political donors; therefore, we need to support political donations.

          My own opinion is that the tax deductions should be kept at the current rate to entice more people to take an active interest in politics. Unfortunately, the majority of Canadians feel otherwise, if the 65% polling figure, against the current level of subsidies is correct.

      • to the degree that you are talking about a country that has historically had a relatively low formal political participation rate (e.g., party membership), has a plurality of parties that attract a large-ish percentage of the pop vote, and that party membership is declining as a general international trend (see Putnam and more recently Savoie) than I am highly skeptical that emergent parties can compete with the established parties and hence parties like the greens who get to a certain level are highly reliant to get over the next hurdle and avoid a glass ceiling.

        recognizing that the reform and the bloc requires no bias, just an accurate recounting of history.

        while i don't completely disagree with some the incentives you list for parties that are reliant on individual donations, i also not their are other concerns, that i think outweigh the incentives you list.

  13. Very interesting article, but it would have been nice to have some insight from the Liberal side on why Ignatieff backed down from an election. Do only Conservative insiders talk to Wells about the inner circle's deliberations?

    • Yes. Wells is their go-to-guy; alongwith Ivison of the Post, he can be counted on to write it with glowing and caressing flourishes that will make the strategists seem like modern-day Messiahs. Remember Brodie and Muttart, those grand wizards of political strategy?

      To be fair to Wells, the Liberals have their go-to-guys-and-gals too. Delacourt of the Star, Bryden of CP, the entire CBC Parliamentary bureau, etc etc

      Nothing wrong with it, but as you point out, it dilutes the impact because it is so one-sided.

      • Geez, why shoot the messanger! I actually think Wells is quite fair on his articles, perhaps the Libs aren't ready to talk about what went wrong and why it collapsed, my bet they aren't prepared yet for an election…

  14. You know, if you like games go play monopoly or poker or something. I know many people are tired of the games. Hey, Harper – try to do some governing.____And, Harper if you had a good record and something to offer beside strategy, games and petty childishness, you wouldn't need to do this negative campaigning on taxpayer dollars 24/7 – 12 months of the year.

    • ''I know many people are tired of the games. ''

      Like non-stop threatening to bring down the government only to back down.

  15. It's obvious from this that Liberals don't talk to Paul Wells anymore.

  16. This is all so incredibly depressing!

  17. Anon’s a bit cranky because he stated flat out that Giorno wouldn’t’ be chief of staff, then spent several months predicting Giorno would be out on his ass.

    Gaunilon asks where the Liberals are in this piece. Fair question. The Liberals I spoke to for this article either aren’t very close to Ignatieff, or are close to Ignatieff but gave me nothing interesting. So I didn’t use most of that stuff. We have people in our Ottawa bureau who can give you chapter and verse on Ignatieff, and I for one find their work consistently valuable. They’re having trouble getting their calls returned by the governing party, and since it is, in fact, the governing party, I thought I’d try my luck. (Everyone, of course, talks to Geddes, which is why it’s generally a good policy to read him first.)

    • Hmmm. Any speculation then, as to why he decided to back down? From the article it appears that all signs portended a Liberal victory had a summer election been called.

  18. "..then spent several months predicting Giorno would be out on his ass."

    Hey, wait a second. There are dozens of your Press Gallery denizens who's been predicting that. In fact, some of your most acerbic posts have been about the "utility" of Giorno.

    Now that he's speaking to you (or not), he's suddenly the greatest strategist on earth since — well, your earlier greats, Brodie & Muttart.

    A little perspective, Wells. I know you have to kiss the hand that strokes your pen, but this is too much.

    • Reading is fundamental, Anon. This article has the Harper gang guessing wrong, twice, about what their adversary was up to, then taking care to lay the blame for substantial tactical mistakes at the boss's door. If that's genius then you're insightful.

      As for your constant, wrong predictions about Giorno's fate, it's reassuring to learn that you only regurgitate what you read from "dozens of your Press Gallery denizens." No wonder you're afraid to sign your name to that crap.

      • Yeah, you're right. That's fear stopping me from sticking any old name and some random email address to my posts.

        As far as "regurgitating" goes, what can I say?

        If paid star columnists can regurgitate what their spinmeister sources tell them, why can't anonymous — or as you see it, cowardly — posters on blogs?

        Why can't I learn from the professionals?

        • I wish you could learn from the professionals. It would make your contributions to these discussions much less venal.

  19. I miss Joe Clark.

    • as leader of the conservatives or as a minister in a conservative government? I miss him in the latter not the former.

      • as a parliamentarian generally….the presence of Broadbent, Clark, Blaikie and a select few others are sorely missed.

      • Both, to be honest. Clark respected Canada. Something these Reformers in sheep's clothing do not.

        • The left liked Clark for the same reason the right started to take a shine to Dion, his ineptitude helped the implementation of their agenda.

    • Joe Clark was an inept politician who blew his chance when he became Prime Minister because of his political tone-deafness. If there was an open man-hole around, Clark found a way to step in it. He should be studied in political science classes under the title "Pitfalls to avoid in becoming a succesful politician."

  20. If we are going to open this can of worms, let's remember: the majority of taxpayer money going to political parties is NOT associated with the $1.90-something/vote mechanism, but rather with tax rebates to party donors. At least until recently, It has been the CONSERVATIVES who have gained the most public money and subsidization through these rebates. But hey, pick your hill and get on with the whatnot and the so on, etc.
    *Btw, only donations to political parties recieve this 75% rebate. The tax rebate for charitable donations is in fact much lower (generally around 40%).

    • If I'm getting this straight, the removal of this subsidization will remove any kind of tracking system Elections Canada has? Won't this encourage lobbyists to slide a wad a cash under the table if no questions will be asked?

  21. Polls and projections are just guesswork. If you want to see where a political party is going you should look where it`s been. The Liberals had 5.6 million votes in 1993 and has been in freefall ever since ending with only 3.6 million votes in 2008.

    Here we have a party with no geographical base, no distinctive policies, and no strong leader. Instead of talk about forcing the next election why is there nobody in the Liberal executive talking about the decreasing relevance of their party with the voters who are rapidly finding it easier to park their votes elsewhere.

    • Ah yes, lies, damn lies and statistics.

      Turnout has also been on a steady decline from 69.6% in 1993 to 58.8% in 2008 with one outlier, 64.7% in 2006 when there was a change in government. The decline in turnout alone would have reduced the Liberal vote to 4.8 million.

      • —-You seem to have conveniently forgot that eligible voters increased by 17% between 1993 and 2008 when 2 million less people found a reason to vote Liberal.

        • Another good point. But these numbers don't mean much on their own.

  22. "In retrospect, we should have stuck to our guns. It was strategically smart. It's still strategically smart. We're going to run again on it. And we're going to do it, if we win the next election. It's coming."

    Nothing is more likely to drive the NDP and Liberals into an ironclad coalition than such talk; if the Tories try something like that, they might even merge. These Tory strategists have entirely mistaken tactics for strategy. There are no Thousand Year Reichs in politics.

    • Nothing is more likely to drive the NDP and Liberals into an ironclad coalition than such talk;

      That's precisely the point, isn't it? Look at the polls and look at the places where the Liberals have regained their strength.

      If the coalition is reformed, then Harper can run around the country talking of socialism and sedition, right?

      This Wells piece was a strategic plant. There is always a reason close Harper insiders decide to spill their guts to reporters. It's just like those "accidental" email and assorted leaks from Doug Finley discussing campaign strategy.

      • The coalition was stillborn because a) the PR was spectacularly mismanaged and b) the line about "this isn't what we voted for" resonated post-election (Canadians being amazingly ignorant of what they were voting for — but that's another story). If the Tories run on crippling their rivals, the rivals will respond by running as a team, i.e. not running against each other. That will lose them a few seats as Dipper-phobic voters swing Tory, but it will gain them three dozen seats from not splitting the anti-Tory vote. They would then have a mandate, including a mandate to govern as a Coalition, and they would be well on the way to formalising a union of parties. Ask Harper whether it's "strategically" wise to end vote-splitting on one's own end of the political spectrum.

        • agreed. not to mention that I think it will also have a positive effect on Libs-CPC undecideds…this group has and continues to show concern about Harper's reputation as a overly aggressive and a social con. This 'brilliant' tactic should sure up that perception nicely.

        • " Canadians being amazingly ignorant "—-Are you sure you`re not an Iggy advisor.
          By the way I`m one of these Canadians you`re insulting so please refrain.

          Since this is Statistic Sunday, let me try to explain one more time why Canadians rejected your idea of replacing a democratically elected gov`t. In 1972 the Liberals received 109 seats and the Tories 107 seats with MP`s in each province. Never have I heard anyone seriously suggest that the Tories should be given the gov`t without another election. Yet, you cannot seem to understand the distaste Canadians have for a spoiled group like the 2008 Liberals demanding power after receiving 66 less seats in an election 2 months earlier.

          • William, you're amazingly ignorant. I'm not an Iggy advisor so I can afford not to flatter you. If the Liberals in 1972 had not had the confidence of the House, then YES, the GG would have offered the Tories a chance to govern and, if they had been able to show they had the confidence of the House, they would have become the Government. This is not rocket science, it just requires a basic interest in the constitution of the country in which you live.

          • Jocko, I know you`re not an Iggy advisor, but you do display the same arrogance of you`re beloved leader—one wonders whether Iggy thought Canadians were " amazingly ignorant " at any time in all those years. I would encourage you guys to continue along that line—–I`m sure Canadians will enjoy submitting to the arrogant elitests.

            And I`m well aware our debt problems began with the survival deal Trudeau made with the socialists in 1972. "Amazingly ignorant Canadians " may not understand fully the constitution but they do understand numbers and they know who was the overwhelming winning party in the last election. So if you think the coalition should now be our gov`t then you must be a complete idio———actually I`ll take that back——you`re right about the coalition and could you advise Iggy that he should campaign on the coalition.

          • It's not arrogance if they are ignorant, Willy. I see you're deep into that time-honoured populist fallacy that mistakes your own private opinions for those of the rest of the country; what a luxury to be able to speak for 20+ million Canadians and keep a clear, if not very cuddly, conscience. Speaking of ignorance:

            ". . . who was the overwhelming winning party in the last election."

            Actually, no. You can save the "overwhelming" epithet for when you've actually got the support in the House of Commons to, you know, pass laws. Just because the Globe and Mail has a headline like "Harper victory" does not make it so. There are victories and victories, and October was one of the latter, as has been abundantly proved by the complete ineffectiveness of this goverment — surely the first in our history to have no agenda whatsoever. Hope you're happy, Harper willed it so with the Fiscal Update.

          • Jocko`s advice to Iggy:
            ——-Arrogance is good especially if you try to sound really intelligent.
            ——-Canadians are amazingly ignorant.
            ——-Populism is evil and usually consisting of very ordinary people.
            ——-Never trust the Globe and Mail to be able to count MP`s.
            ——-Even if the CPC get twice as many MP`s as you in the next election, it`s still not a victory for them.

          • I couldn't care less what Iggy does or thinks. It will no doubt shock you, Willy, to learn that some people — let's call them "the elite," but it's the kind of elite everybody's welcome to join — actually have an independent view. That's right, I told you you'd be surprised. Independent as in "I am not a snivelling partisan rat." You should try it, Willy, it's real fun.

          • I couldn't care less what Iggy does or thinks. It will no doubt stun you, Willy — you might want to hold on to something before you read the next clause — but it's actually possible to have an independent view. That's independent as in "I am not a mouthpiece, in my own mind, for my Great Leader." Did you remember to hold on to something?

          • has Macleans ever done any research into where the ConBots show up most strongly? what kinds of stories? what times of day or days of the week they show up most on? while this column had all the makings for an interesting discussion it was infested early and remained so. unfortunate.

            ps william, when did the globe become the arbitrator of fact and fiction?

          • has Macleans ever done any research into where the LibBots show up most strongly? what kinds of stories? what times of day or days of the week they show up most on? while this column had all the makings for an interesting discussion it was infested early and remained so. unfortunate.

            Sheesh.

          • yup, I am a LibBot CR, you're right.

          • I wasn't suggesting that you are, s_n_m. I was simply turning your "conbot infestation" comment on its head.

          • to what end?

            as you seem to allow below, in response to Jack, there are more ad hominem attacks from the right than from the left.

            further, it was/is fairly widely accepted that the Cons do a better job of disseminating and generating take up of their talking point than any of the parties of the centre-left. hell it was even a source of CPC pride.

            I think we can reasonably easily agree that both of these behaviours do not add to the quality of discussion on issues such as the ones presented in this story, no?

          • You need to enlarge your circle of friends and accept that not all people think alike.

          • uhmmm, enough said CR?

            (I swear I didn't post the above to support my case).

          • You left/lib commenters have become ever so sensitive since Iggy blinked at the OK Corral last week. In addition to enlarging your circle of friends, you may want to look into enlarging your interests. Politics isn't everything.

          • All this talk of enlargement… maybe jarrid isn't a conbot but rather a spammer.

          • I wasn't suggesting that you were, s_n_m. I was simply turning your "conbot infestation" comment on its head.

          • I think it's objectively true that independent-minded commenters get denounced by ConBots more than they get denounced by LibBots. IIRC, CR, you've only ever been denounced as such from the right. The right, which includes our friends the Harper fanatics, is just much more paranoid and thin-skinned: anything that irritates them opens up a whole parcel of anxieties and insecurities.

          • This is completely false. I've rarely, if ever, seen Crit denounced from the right. I think that he generally provides reasonable arguments. You, on the other hand… this comment is a perfect example of how you play loose with facts to suit your intended proclamation.

          • Thanks, scf, but I've been denounced from the 'right' many times in my responses to Steyn columns A number of Steyn fans seem to view me as some kind of Lib-left activist. I think that is what Jack was referring to.

          • It's true that I've been denounced as such by more Conbots than LibBots, but I've taken a lot of flak from both directions.

          • Jack, all I can tell you is I've taken a fair amount of abuse in the last week or so, in fact the most since I've been commenting around here since last August. I attribute it to general frustration by Liberal and left/lib partisan commenters at recent political events. Most wanted to go to the polls and are lashing out. It's water off a duck's back to me, but it's worth noting since we're talking about commenter etiquette.

          • Good question, Crit. I'd like to know the answer to that as well. We need a demographic/epidemiological study.

  23. "The Liberals I spoke to for this article either aren't very close to Ignatieff, or are close to Ignatieff but gave me nothing interesting." – Wells

    Hmmm. Any speculation then, as to why he backed down? From your article it seemed that all signs portended good Liberal fortunes in a summer election. Why would Ignatieff decide to ignore them?

  24. "The Liberals I spoke to for this article either aren't very close to Ignatieff, or are close to Ignatieff but gave me nothing interesting." – Wells

    Hmmm. Any speculation then, as to why he backed down? From your article it seemed that all signs portended good Liberal fortunes in a summer election. Why would Ignatieff decide to ignore them?

    Also – something is seriously fubar with comment threading.

    • Iggy backed down because his advisors told him that his party was not ready for an election either financially or policy wise—-the voters would have punished them severley in a mid-summer, mid-recession election—-that Iggy, he`s a real smart guy.

    • Two reasons, in my opinon:

      Firstly, Liberal finances probably couldn't support an election right now without putting them in a really precarious position. Second, It would be a little counter productive to bring down a gov't (thereby halting most of the stimulus work) because the stimulus wasn't getting out fast enough.

      I'm of the opinion that if they'll try an election, it would likely be in September or later. Yes, they had the polling numbers for June to pull off a minority (sort of, but opening polls often don't look much like election day), so in all likelihood a smaller one than we currently have (probably high 110s), and it likely would plunge us into yet another election shortly thereafter because of a budget defeat.

  25. Whenever the election does come, Harper has one plan in mind for afterward: the elimination of public funding to political parties.

    he'll win a majority on that alone. can't wait. then can we have a referendum on kicking Toronto out of the country? please?

    • Ah yes the glue that truly binds the conbots together – hatred of Toronto…almost makes me want to move there.

  26. I have to say i too find Harper's purported determinatin to end political subsidies baffling…it worked so well in the fu after all. It'll get the conbots like william all hot and sweaty but i can't see it seizing the country. That's unless stategic genius SH really does want to unite the left. Oh well my contention all along is that Harper's a fanatic at heart, and when he does self-imolate he'll be the one with the matches.

    • I guess you missed the articles about the overwhelming support Canadians had for eliminating public financing? Most weren't aware it was taking place. From an Ipsos-Reid poll in December:

      "Regardless, a majority (61%) does not believe that political parties should receive this taxpayer funded subsidy"

      http://www.ipsos-na.com/news/pressrelease.cfm?id=
      (you have to go to the last few paragraphs for that nugget.

      • The question of eliminating the subsidy was not raised as an election issue, and i very much doubt Canadians would have supported eliminating it with little or no debate. I believe other polls show it as a non issue for most people.

  27. I suppose there are good reasons for not pulling the trigger, but really what conclusion can you come to, other than Iggy choked, he didn't want the puck, the ball ; he didn't want to be the man.
    Hopefully for him it's just his inexperience showing and not a case of not having the necessary fire in the belly.

  28. Excellent story. Well researched and full of inside baseball. I'm amazed by the reaction of some of the diehard partisans here, who assume that any piece that casts Iggy's decisions in a negative light must be the result of journalistic pandering to the governing party.

    • I agree, the libcons need something better than just bad mouthing Harper to get elected again…

  29. Not only can no criticism be without some kind of partisan conspiracy, but it's almost always followed by vague attacks on Harper.

    “Harper's a fanatic at heart”

    “Hey, Harper – try to do some governing”

    Harper does not have one great plan for Canada

    I'm still waiting on some sort of liberal policy direction, more EI and stimulus spending but ….it cant take till 2011 to get back to surplus. That's great progressive thinking right there.

    Id also like to take this time to note that countries of the EU who did not spend absurd amounts on stimulus packages are seeing just as much growth as the ones who did and even in certain cases have better long term expected growth since they wont have backed up debt.

    • Ooooh, how mean, wanting one's government to govern. That's low.

      • Now one would think that someone with an independent view would see the value in Charles` view that the vague attacks on PM Harper are from a party that has no substantial policy direction. If there is a Liberal policy direction then tell us where—–and explain what you mean when you say Harper has no agenda. Does governing mean announcements like the Kelowna Accord, or maybe announcing National Child Daycare, or announcing the Kyoto Deal or maybe getting Bono to announce for you.

        You shouldn`t just make idle attacks and threats—-oh wait a minute—–there was another guy doing that for the past couple weeks.

        • Did I say that I thought the Liberals were chock-full of bold new policy ideas? Au contraire. You need to stop imagining that other people are saying what you want them to say, William.

          This gets back to the whole thing about not being a slave of partisanship. If I criticise the Conservative position on something, it does not follow that I am endorsing the Liberal position. Got that? And if I denounce the Conservative government holus bolus, it does not follow that I think the Liberals would necessarily do better (though, if you're asking, I do think they'd do better generally). It's called being a responsible citizen. Now please share more of your biting irony, William, I know you're good for it.

        • Did I say that I thought the Liberals were chock-full of bold new policy ideas? Au contraire. You need to stop imagining that other people are saying what you want them to say, William.

          This gets back to the whole thing about not being a slave of partisanship. If I criticise the Conservative position on something, it does not follow that I am endorsing the Liberal position. Got that? And if I denounce the Conservative government holus bolus, it does not follow that I think the Liberals would necessarily do better (though, if you're asking, I do think they'd do better generally). It's called being a responsible citizen who wants his government to do well, not poorly.

          Now please share more of your biting irony, William, I know you're good for it.

          • I would never be ashamed to admit my preference for a CPC gov`t then a Liberal one. Heck, i`d say half my reason for feeling that way is because I`m tired of Liberal gov`ts. If you look at history there has been Liberal gov`ts for something like 80 of the past 110 years—–jeez, give the other guys a chance.

            And I`m serious about the long term health of the Liberals—-I don`t want to wake up some morning and see we have a PM Layton or please no— a PM Mulcair. And don`t think those dippers aren`t talking about it—-if Iggy fails watch for an NDP—Green get together.

            See, I can be responsible and partisan at the same time Jack——looking forward to your next independent, non-partisan, responsible, denouncing and critical essay.

          • Nothing vague about calling Harper a fanatic Charles, there's lots of circumstancial evidence for that assertion. Although i must agree with you that something more substantial from the Liberals on the policy front would be welcome.

          • I'm not some anti-Conservative fanatic, William; it's precisely because, like you, I think we need balance that I wish the Conservatives would quit with the song-and-dance schtick and actually govern like Conservatives: then the country could decide if it liked that or not (or some elements and not others). What I loathe is this Brezhnev-era stagnation we've got going. Eventually everybody is going to realise that, given the Bloc, life is to short to scheme for majorities, that the country needs leadership, and that providing some leadership is better than all this bickering. Which you probably agree with, but I wish it would filter through to the Little Shop of Tories.

    • Hey Charles, it's ok. We haven't actually SPENT any money on stimulus projects yet either. Just talked about them.

      But thank you for at least raising an issue important to the people who live here, most of whom could care less about who sits where in Ottawa.

    • Would you care to point out where the EU economy would be now if various countries of the EU had NOT spent absurd amounts on stimulus packages?

      Saying, "Hey, I didn't throw myself on that grenade and I'm fine" doesn't mean that things would be the same if nobody else had either.

  30. "Id also like to take this time to note that countries of the EU who did not spend absurd amounts on stimulus packages are seeing just as much growth as the ones who did and even in certain cases have better long term expected growth since they wont have backed up debt."

    That could be a result of free riding.

    • Could also be unicorns or leprechauns.

      • Both of which have just as much liklihood as Charles implied scenario as well.

  31. I enjoyed reading this article. It gives some good and credible behind-the-scenes stories that you rarely see anywhere else. I've not seen before a plausible explanation (til now) why the Conservatives jumped to election footing so unexpectedly, prior to Iggy's power play.
    I find it funny the Cons would be thinking about Iggy's age (61). That doesn't seem old in comparison to others here and around the world, and the fact that Iggy appears to have good health.

  32. Fantastic Take Wells…This fall should be fantastic sport, with the leaders re-charged and the two major parties that should actually be prepared for electoral battle should the tea leaves look right….

  33. Well, (no pun intended) this article sure sparked some interesting debate; particularly between a few posters.

    I've admired Macleans comment section for its more mature and even informed contribution to the articles, as compared to cbc.ca or other news magazines. Sorry guys, but a couple of you were on the verge of denegrating. Let's make the fight a little cleaner next time eh?

  34. Well, (no pun intended) this article sure sparked some interesting debate; particularly between a few posters.

    I've admired Macleans comment section for its more mature and even informed contribution to the articles, as compared to cbc.ca or other news magazines. Sorry guys, but a couple of you were on the verge of denegrating to QP antics. Let's make the fight a little cleaner next time eh?

  35. The only thing wrong with the Tories' fall economic update was that eliminating subsidies for political parties wasn't in their platform in the previous election. I think it would be a great centrepiece for the next election. Why on earth should voters be forced to give money to political parties they don't support? That's what the current system does. Eliminating the subsidies would force parties to craft a message capable of making people reach into their pockets, and that would be a great thing for Canadian democracy.

  36. Please tell us – election in the fall of 2009 or winter/spring of 2010?

  37. Don't worry my Liberal Friends……if Harper cuts public funding to political Parties, your Liberal Party will find some other pot of public money to steal from to support their ambitons.

    There are a few things Liberals are VERY GOOD at:

    Pandering to every immigrant group that can vote……and stealing our money for their personal benefit.

    • All the Liberals in this thread,

      Let's mug James Halifax and steal his wallet.

  38. ''I know many people are tired of the games. ''

    Like non-stop threatening to bring down the government only to back down.

    • or just the non stop threatening…..